LAHORE, (AFP) — Two suicide bombers struck the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Karachi within two hours on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 70, officials said.
A teenager blew himself up in the eastern city of Lahore near a Shiite Muslim procession, killing at least nine people and wounding more than 70, in an attack claimed by Taliban militants who said they had targeted police.
About 90 minutes later a motorcycle bomber detonated in the southern city of Karachi, killing three people, including two policemen, police and hospital officials said.
The first bombing took place at a busy intersection in downtown Lahore when a young teenager tried to join a Shiite procession before detonating close to a police checkpoint, said city police chief Aslam Tareen.
“The bomber had strapped bombs to his body as well as carrying explosives in a bag,” he said.
“(He) tried to sneak into the procession and exploded himself when police stopped him for a body search at an outer checkpoint,” he said.
Doctor Asad Ashraf at Lahore city’s main Mayo Hospital said the hospital had received ten bodies, including that of the suicide bomber, and 70 wounded, while another four injured people were at a hospital nearby
Another hospital official said the dead included at least three police officials and one woman, and said 20 people were critically wounded, including women and children.
Television footage showed policemen and ambulance workers carrying the wounded away with their hands and on stretchers, while other officers tried to calm the shocked and confused crowd.
The suicide attack took place near a religious procession by the Shiite Muslim community to mark the 40th day of mourning of the death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grand son Imam Hussain.
An hour and a half later a second suicide attack in troubled Karachi city, a teeming coastal metropolis where sectarian and political violence is rife, killed three people, including two policemen, and injured three others.
“It was a suicide bombing. The bomber was riding a motorbike and carrying a bag in his hand, which had explosives in it. He struck one of our police mobile vans. The police were the target,” said senior police official Shaukat Shah.
Police surgeon Hamid Perhiar at Karachi’s main Jinnah Hospital said three people, including two officers were killed, while there was another policeman among the three injured.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the Lahore attack which they said was aimed at security officials in revenge for military operations and US drone attacks targeting militants in their northwest stronghold.
“We claim responsibility for the suicide attack on police in Lahore,” said Azam Tariq, spokesman for militant umbrella group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in a telephone call to AFP in Miranshah, the main town in restive North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan.
“We regret the loss of civilian lives in the attack and warn people to keep away from security forces and government property,” he said.
“The attack was in retaliation for drone strikes and military operations in tribal areas. We have more than 3,000 trained suicide bombers,” he added.
A city of eight million near the border with India, Lahore has been increasingly subject to Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked attacks in a nationwide bombing campaign that has killed more than 4,000 people in three-and-a-half years.
Sunni Muslim militant groups have frequently targeted Pakistan’s Shiite minority.
Triple suicide bombings at a Shiite mourning procession killed at least 31 people and wounded 280 others in Lahore in early September.
Pakistan tacitly cooperates with the US drone bombing campaign, which Washington does not openly acknowledge, but which US officials say has severely weakened Al-Qaeda’s leadership.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “strongly condemned” the Lahore attack and ordered an immediate inquiry to investigate the attack, a statement said.